20 December 2013

Moodle & Schoology Moves That Limit Collaboration

Here's my report of what I found when trying to restore a course from 2.6 to a 2.5 site yesterday along with my work-around to actually force it to happen and a Moodle developer's response.

Lest anyone think I'm blind to anything dysfunctional in Moodle, this is a prime example of developers ignoring various types of use within a classroom or institution. In a move to leap frog their competition, Moodle has been on a fairly aggressive update schedule for the last couple of years. While these updates have brought many new features and improvements, there are ways that this can actually hinder districts who wish to collaborate.

I understand that moving backups of courses from version 2 to version 1 would be problematic. There is so much that is completely different. Moodle's official stance is that they will not support the transfer of backups from any version to a lower version. While this really hasn't been an issue as it was easy enough to import a 2.5 course to a 2.4, 2.3 or even 2.2 site before, this is no longer the case with Moodle 2.6. A backup made on a 2.6 site does not even restore on a 2.5 site, which is only 6 months behind the new version's release. Seriously?

Here's why it's a big deal:

Most districts only update once a year, some once every two or three years. This is because the IT departments in many districts have little, if anything to do with curriculum groups or teaching and learning departments. Some districts pay a vendor to host Moodle for them and updates are usually scheduled for the summer. This prevents those districts from using courses shared with districts using a newer version.

I'm working on a project that is facilitating the creation of 40 core, year-long courses from grades 3-12 for Minnesota districts that will eventually become Creative Commons licensed. Does all of that development really need to happen on a site with a version of Moodle that is no longer supported just so that we can make sure that everyone is able to use the course backups?

Is it really too much to expect that a file from versions six months apart really cannot work together any longer?!

Now for Schoology, I've been hearing rumblings of dissatisfaction with Schoology since they've limited what is possible with their "free" version. Districts are not back in the hunt for a solution and it seems looking to switch back to Moodle.

Here's what's bugging me lately...

I was just at a conference where someone was showing off her Schoology course as an example of a course that aligns with a Quality Matters rubric. It was ugly to navigate and to look at, but let's say I wanted a copy of her course, how would I get one? Can she back it up into a backup file and share it with me? No. It would appear that the only way to transfer courses between districts would be to create a shared public resource and then import it into a new course. This import does not include assessments like quizzes. This type of sharing isn't always possible, desired or legal.

The other move Schoology made this week that raised my eyebrow was that they are now requiring users to verify their accounts. This isn't just a link in an email you click on. They actually wanted me to upload a signed teacher consent form and a scan of my school ID or driver's license. That's not going to happen. So ends my work to transfer shared courses into the Schoology platform for districts who aren't able to complete that process on their own for whatever reason.

On a side note, I've been at a few conferences since my last post and the first thing I've still been hearing from vendors and users of Schoology alike when they describe the product, "It's a lot like Facebook." Might be time to change the company line on that. It doesn't have quite the same punch as it used to.